Austria 1629 40 ducats Fr-45

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Heritage sale 3041, lot 32122
Austria H3041-32122r.jpg
This specimen was lot 32122 in Heritage sale 3041 (Chicago, August 2015), where it did not sell. The catalog description[1] noted,

"Ferdinand III gold 40 Ducat 1629 AU58 NGC, Prague mint. FERDINANDVS • III • D : G : HVNG : BOHEMIÆ • REX :, elaborately armored bust of Ferdinand III right, wearing the chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece; all within laurel wreath; D-S (Donat Stark, engraver) within the wreath on either side; 40 hand-punched into circle at base of wreath / ARCHIDVX - AVSTRIÆ TE (ligate) C, crowned Bohemian coat of arms above the chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece; all within laurel wreath.

Heritage Auctions is proud and honored to present for sale this Ferdinand III 40 ducat. As much a work of Baroque art as there is in all of numismatics, this is a piece that goes beyond adjectives such as "impressive" and "important;" they simply do not do it justice. This is one of those rare items that lives in the gray area between "collectible coin" and "fine art." Indeed, weighing in at well over four solid troy ounces of gold, this piece was clearly not intended for circulation, but instead was a artifact of royalty, wealth or perhaps both - a presentation piece in the truest form. In fact, had this coin been linked directly to Emperor Ferdinand himself, passing directly through his care or ownership, we would not be in the least surprised.

The technical grade of AU58 assigned to it by NGC does not quite do it justice. While it is understandable considering a few scattered marks, and the few small areas of weak striking (which is to be expected for a piece of this size), one cannot reduce the appeal of this coin to just a single number. Being very possibly the only example in private hands, grade becomes an ancillary factor in determining its value. To find comparable results, one may in fact be as well served studying the auction archives of houses specializing in fine and decorative arts as much as those of coin companies. In the end, it is left to the market to decide its true worth.

Ex. Monsieur le Comte de L, Schulman (30 May 1929), lot 42, illustrated on plate II.

In 1627, having already been elected King of Hungary two years earlier, Ferdinand III was elected King of Bohemia. He assumed command of the Imperial Army in 1634 and was crowned Holy Roman Emperor the next year following the death of his father Ferdinand II. Educated by Jesuits and born into the house of Habsburg, Ferdinand III became Emperor in the middle of the Thirty Years War and inherited the responsibility of defending both his Catholic beliefs and the political influence of his family, the former against Protestants within his empire and the later against France and the other great powers in Europe. While Ferdinand wished to end the war quickly, he was not able to negotiate peace terms until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Importantly, this treaty created a precedent for national self-determination in Europe, a concept which would be built on by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and leaders of the United Nations following the Second World War. Ferdinand married three times: his first wife was Archduchess Maria Anna of Spain, with whom he had six children; his second Archduchess Maria Leopoldine of Austria, with whom he had one child; and his third Eleonora Gonzaga, with whom he had four children. After his death, his son Leopold I succeeded him as both King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor.

The Kingdom of Bohemia became a monarchy as early as the ninth century, and fell into Habsburg rule in 1526. While each new ruler was technically elected, the choice of the Holy Roman Emperor (or commonly, as in the case of Ferdinand III, the heir apparent to the Imperial throne) was usually a foregone conclusion. Therefore, when in 1618 officials of the Emperor were killed in what became known as the Defenestration of Prague (one of the key moments that incited the Thirty Years' War) and the Bohemian nobility elected a Protestant as their king rather than the Emperor, Ferdinand II moved swiftly to reclaim the throne of Bohemia. Once Ferdinand II regained control, he immediately minted coinage with his likeness to reassert his influence. His son Ferdinand III did the same a few years later when he was elected King of Bohemia, this coin being one of the most extraordinary examples of this effect. From The Providence Collection."

This immense piece is listed in Friedberg along with even larger fifty and hundred ducat issues. The SCWC disdains to include them, likely dismissing them as medals.

Recorded mintage: unknown.

Specification: 140 g, .986 fine gold, this specimen 139.1 grams.

Catalog reference: Fr-45 ("Rare").


  • Friedberg, Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg, Gold Coins of the World, From Ancient Times to the Present, 7th ed., Clifton, NJ: Coin and Currency Institute, 2003.
  • Cuhaj, George S., and Thomas Michael, Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1601-1700, 6th ed., Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2014.
  • [1]Bierrenbach, Cristiano, Warren Tucker and David Michaels, Heritage World & Ancient Coins Auction 3041, featuring the Eric Beckman Collection of Canadian Coins, the Kaiser Collection of German Gold Coins and the Rudman Collection of Mexican Coins, Part I, Dallas, TX: Heritage Auction Galleries, 2015.

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